I purchased the Sony a5100 last year as a secondary camera that I could carry with me more easily than my Nikon D7000. I’ve been astounded by the quality of the images produced by the a5100 both in sharpness and overall image quality. I have never received the same results with my D7000 (something I’m still investigating.) So good is the quality of this “pro-sumer” camera that I’m using it daily and rarely pull out the D7000.
The a5100 has the same APS-C sensor and many of the same capabilities as the a6000, minus a hotshoe and viewfinder. You can still, however, get most of the same functionality out of the a5100 with a little bit of work. One word of note, most of the Sony “applications” offered for sale in the camera’s menu system are useless and apply only to JPEG compressed images, and force dumbed-down methods to achieve the result.
Many “pro-sumer” (pro/consumer) cameras come with a set of limitations that require a bit of research to overcome. Let my experiences and discoveries help you on your search for your own solutions!
The first issue to overcome, the missing hotshoe, can be alleviated somewhat by using a slave unit set to fire when the on-board flash goes off. I have a Nikon SB-900 that can be set to SU-4 mode and then set to remote, so it fires when the on-board flash fires. Generally higher-end flashes have optical slave modes, there are also optical slave units you can purchase.
Another issue, that seemed major at first, is the Long Exposure Noise Reduction that the a5100 applies to every exposure over 1 second. This means that the camera would sit idle while applying the noise reduction every time an image longer than 1 second was shot, sometimes for a time longer than the exposure itself. I first determined that you could turn it off but only for JPG images, which would be ultimately useless for serious post-processing. I found that when the camera was put into Continuous shooting mode the Long Exposure Noise Reduction was disabled. This is perfect for shooting stars, star-trails and more, using an intervalometer. An intervalometer is a remote shutter that can also count shots and time between shots, and even hold the shutter open for an extended period of time. This device is perfect for taking long exposures, timed shots, or just shooting away from the camera. It is connected to the camera by a cord (infrared remote intervalometers are also available.)
Next I discovered that the a5100 does not support Sony’s wireless remote. This is especially a problem if you happen to be intending to exposures over 1/50 of second. There is a Timer mode in the camera, that allows you to take a shot 2, 5 or 10 seconds after initiating the shutter, but this only works if you’re taking one photo. Since I take a lot hand-blended HDR photos, this method was insufficient. Again the intervalometer comes to the rescue. Once connected, you can use the intervalometer to shoot the bracketed shots at a distance, preventing any movement of the camera, it also is great for snapping picks of sunsets and the like.
Finally, I had several lenses that I had purchased for my old D7000, including a relatively new 11-16mm Tokina lens, that were just sitting around while I played with my new camera. I considered selling the D7000 and lenses to invest in new ones for the Sony, but I realized that the Sony E mount lenses are still somewhat limited in their range. There are no 300mm lenses for the Sony E mount yet, so I chose to buy an adapter instead.
There are several adapters available for each mount’s lenses. Some will even allow the camera to utilize the autofocus functionality. With pro-lenses and pro-cameras like the Sony A7II, there are an amazing array of adapters, but for the Nikon G lenses (these have no aperture ring), your selection is more limited. None of the current crop of adapters will transfer electricity to the lens, therefore there is no autofocus capability using Nikon G lenses on a Sony E mount camera. Plus, with the G mount lenses, you must get an adapter that has an aperture adjustment ring.
I chose an inexpensive adapter by a company called Fotga that had an aperture ring and offered the control I needed for both F and G lenses. This adapter has worked quite well, enabling me to utilize those lenses that were gathering dust. My only complaint about the Fotga adapter is that the little tab to disengage the adapter from the lens requires a bit of work to manipulate. I find that if you slide the aperture ring all the way to lock, and then, using one hand to hold the lens and adapter and the other to push on the tab with your thumb, you can feel the tab engage and rotate the lens clock-wise (front of the lens downward).
Do you have a “prosumer” camera and have tips and tricks to share? Want to ask me a question about this article? Let us know what secrets you’ve found, and help others discover the magic of photography on our Facebook page.